Friday, April 5, 2013


That was a good weekend. I'm late on the write-up, coming into another already, but what's new? And then there's Justin Bieber's monkey. I was in a place the other day, waiting for a sandwich. There  was a television on the wall. A video-clip channel. It had a news-crawl underneath, and there was a headline. Justin Bieber has one month to reclaim his monkey, or it will be given to a shelter.

Why? What did the monkey do? Doesn't Justin like it any more? Why does he have a monkey? What kind of monkey is it? How did he get separated from his monkey? Is this some kind of... post-modernist Michael Jackson homage? Will Bieber slowly turn himself black?

Great Cthulhu! How did it come to this? Some feckless, talentless Canadian kid with bad hair and a fixed grin, and his relationship with his monkey is somehow newsworthy at an international level. Have we nothing better to be doing as a species?

I certainly do. There's no question of that. I spent last weekend in Melbourne, helping my old and dear friend  Barnes celebrate the birthday of his offspring, the Weapon. Mister Barnes and I, at one time, did a lot of gaming together, and he suggested I might like to cross the water with my own eldest, and perhaps spend a few hours teaching the new generation a thing or two. When he mentioned that Guru Bob and Fancy Jack Strugnell would be there as well, it was a done deal. No hesitation.

You know, I think people underrate the skill that goes into role-playing. Seriously. I still do a bit with my kids and a few other hereabouts, and it's fun, but they're at the bottom of the learning curve. They haven't figured out how to kick back, put on a character, and jump into the story for the sheer fun of it. They're still in the early days: trying to figure out how to be faster, better, stronger -- how to win, goddammit. Guru Bob, Struggers, Barnes, me -- we've been at it long enough that we know how to win. And it's simple: jump in. Be somebody else. Let the story happen. Have fun.

Watching Bob and Fancy Jack drop straight into their characters was a treat. Not a pause, not a moment of hesitation. They were straight up, and confident, and they did their part to get the ball rolling, leaving plenty of space to encourage the boys to play their parts. The end result was about eight hours of slightly ludicrous action and adventure, interspersed with absolute hilarity. I don't think either of the boys will ever look at pea soup the same way again...

What's better than sitting down with old friends, and being able to slide straight back into the groove? Nothing I can think of. Time passes. Faces change, bodies alter, but the people inside are who they always were; maybe more refined and more certain than they were twenty-five years ago, but not in any important way. They have become what they promised to be: good men, strong men, with easy laughter and honour and a world of trust.

It's good to be able to be proud of your friends.

Easter happened too, didn't it? But I wasn't paying a lot of attention. There were eggs, of course. Oh, and there were the assholes at the Melbourne airport who impounded my toenail cutters. I mean, for fuck's sake.

I threw a few things into my computer bag for the trip when we took off for Melbourne. Some notes, some dice, a shirt, a change of underpants. We were only over there for a day or so. Naturally, I didn't bother emptying out my bag and going through it point by point. I keep a lot of random shit in that bag, but it's all harmless. I'm not stupid. So I put it on the X-ray at Launceston. It went through. It came out the other side. They gave it back to me. I got on the plane. I went to Melbourne. Job done.

At no point did I use the toenail clippers -- which I had long forgotten, buried in the bottom of the bag -- to either hijack the craft, or commit sabotage. I'd like this noted for the defense, Your Honour: the accused already flew with the fucking things, and nobody died.

So. None the wiser, after a fine day or so in Melbourne, Barnes and the Weapon took Jake and me to Melbourne airport, where we checked in. And I duly put my computer bag on the X-ray, and walked through and collected... no. Wait. That's where it went wrong.

I didn't collect it. Instead, I was called back through the metal detector, and asked whether there were toenail clippers in my bag. I had no fucking idea, of course, and I said as much, albeit more politely. And so I was invited to empty my bag, which I did, and lo: there they were. Down the bottom. Amongst half-chewed packets of gum, old tissues, random receipts, pens, odd socks, USB memory sticks, and so forth. Detritus.

The officious little man who called me back through evidenced tremendous satisfaction upon the discovery of the cutters. He'd called it, hadn't he? He'd exercised his duly appointed authority, assessed the situation, and responded to the danger with all due alertness. He was the man. He was protecting the state.

He'd said there were toenail cutters... and yes, despite my doubts, there were indeed toenail cutters. I'd been nailed, publicly revealed as dangerous, toenail-cutter-carrying scum, and he'd saved the day.

It's a strange thing. Apparently, flights from Launceston to Melbourne are safe from toenail clippers. However, it appears that flights from Melbourne to Launceston are at terrible risk from toenail clippers.

Why? I don't know. I asked the officious little man as he confiscated my toenail cutterss. He said that they qualified as a tool, and that no tools were permitted on any flight. I did not mention that they had flown with me from Launceston. Nor did I mention that he, apparently, was allowed to fly, alongside a great many other tools. Instead I smiled, and said that I hoped he had a nice home for my erstwhile toenail clippers.

He said they would go into a bin.

Fuck, eh? When is this bullshit going to finish? Just think: all those years we flew with toenail clippers in our bags, never knowing the hideous dangers we faced. What were we thinking? How did we ever survive?

As I get older, the guiding hands on the reins of this society seem to grow ever more petty, ever more churlish, ever more blatantly moronic. They'll pursue us across the country for failing to wear our seat belts, but rising oceans and dying forests and bleaching reefs aren't even news headlines. No, instead we get Delphic utterances about Justin Bieber's monkey.

I wonder how much money is being spent on this nonsensical security theatre at the airports. It must be millions every year, without a doubt. That's millions nobody is spending on housing, education, health, renewable energy...

I am so over this shit. When I was a kid, the adult world kept telling me to grow up. Well, I've done that now, thanks: so what the fuck is the excuse of that same world? Hey, you fuckers! Here I am! I'm being responsible! I pay taxes. I raise my children well. I have taken my place as a stakeholder, and I'm doing my fucking part, just the way you asked me.

So when are you cretins going to stop dicking around with toenail clippers, and maybe pay some attention to the grown-up problems out there? When are you going to stop picking each others lice and throwing feces at each other in Parliament, puffing out your cheek pouches and hooting at each other across the borders, competing to see who can be first at swill time in the zoo your corporate masters have built for us all?

Never, I suppose.

And me? I don't even know where to start.

I guess I'll just keep raising my kids, looking after the people around me and the place where I live -- oh, and I'll keep flying without toenail clippers too, most likely.